Simple past

The simple past is used for a single event (or sequence of such events) in the past, and also for past habitual action:

He took the money and ran.
I visited them every day for a year.

It can also refer to a past state:

I knew how to fight even as a child.

For action that was ongoing at the time referred to, the past progressive is generally used instead (e.g. I was cooking). The same can apply to states, if temporary (e.g. the ball was lying on the sidewalk), but some stative verbs do not generally use the progressive aspect at all – see Uses of English verb forms § Progressive – and in these cases the simple past is used even for a temporary state:

The dog was in its kennel.
I felt cold.

However, with verbs of sensing, it is common in such circumstances to use could see in place of saw, could hear in place of heard, etc. For more on this, see can see.

If one action interrupts another, then it is usual for the interrupted (ongoing) action to be expressed with the past progressive, and the action that interrupted it to be in the simple past:

Your mother called while you were cooking.

The simple past is often close in meaning to the present perfect. The simple past is used when the event happened at a particular time in the past, or during a period which ended in the past (i.e. a period that does not last up until the present time). This time frame may be explicitly stated, or implicit in the context (for example the past tense is often used when describing a sequence of past events).

I was born in 1980.
We turned the oven off two minutes ago.
I came home at 6 o’clock.
When did they get married?
We wrote two letters this morning.
She placed the letter on the table, sighed, and left the house.

These examples can be contrasted with those given at Uses of English verb forms § Present perfect. Also, for past actions that occurred before the relevant past time frame, the past perfect is used.

Various compound constructions exist for denoting past habitual action. The sentence When I was young, I played football every Saturday might alternatively be phrased using used to (… I used to play …) or using would (… I would play…).

The simple past form also has some uses in which it does not refer to a past time. These are generally in condition clauses and some other dependent clauses referring to hypothetical circumstances, as well as certain expressions of wish:

If he walked faster, he would get home earlier.
I wish I knew what his name was.
I would rather she wore a longer dress.

For more details see the sections on conditionals, dependent clauses and expressions of wish in the article on uses of English verb forms.

For use of the simple past (and other past tense forms) in indirect speech, see Uses of English verb forms § Indirect speech. An example:

He said he wanted to go on the slide.
Source: Simple past – Wikipedia

Simple past was last modified: January 28th, 2019 by Jovan Stosic

Verbs | English Grammar | EF


Selecting the correct verb tense and conjugating verbs correctly is tricky in English. Click on the verb tense to read more about how to form this tense and how it is used, or select a time to see the full list of tenses and references on that time.

Present Tenses in English Examples
Simple present tense They walk home.
Present continuous tense They are walking home.
Past Tenses in English
Simple past tense Peter lived in China in 1965.
Past continuous tense was reading when she arrived.
Perfect Tenses in English
Present perfect tense have lived here since 1987.
Present perfect continuous have been living here for years.
Past perfect We had been to see her several times before she visited us.
Past perfect continuous He had been watching her for some time when she turned and smiled.
Future perfect We will have arrived in the States by the time you get this letter.
Future perfect continuous By the end of your course, you will have been studying for five years.
Future Tenses in English
Simple future tense They will go to Italy next week.
Future continuous tense will be travelling by train.
Conditional Tenses in English
Zero conditional If ice gets hot it melts.
Type 1 conditional If he is late I will be angry.
Type 2 conditional If he was in Australia he would be getting up now.
Type 3 conditional She would have visited me if she had had time.
Mixed conditional would be playing tennis if I hadn’t broken my arm.
The -ing forms in English
Gerund I like swimming.
Present participle She goes running every morning.
Passive voice

Source: Verbs | English Grammar | EF

Verbs | English Grammar | EF was last modified: January 24th, 2018 by Jovan Stosic

First, Second, and Third Conditional

This analysis of conditional verb forms was written by Rob De Decker, who teaches English at a Flemish grammar school (equivalent to an American high school) in Schellebelle, Belgium. It is used here with his permission.

Conditional Clause and Main Clause

If I have enough money,
conditional clause    
I will go to Japan.
    main clause
I will go to Japan,
main clause    
if I have enough money
    conditional clause

First, Second, and Third Conditional

1. First conditional: If I have enough money, I will go to Japan.
2. Second conditional: If I had enough money, I would go to Japan.
3. Third conditional: If I had had enough money, I would have gone to Japan.


Conditional clause Main clause
1. If + Present Tense will + inf / present tense / imperative

  1. If you help me with the dishes (if + pres), 
    I will help you with your homework. (will + inf)
  2. If the sum of the digits of a number is divisible by three, 
    the number is divisible by three (Pres. tense)
  3. If you see Mr Fox tonight, tell him I am ill. (imperative).
2. If + Past Tense would + inf
3. If + Past Perfect Tense would have + past participle
We do not normally use will or would in the conditional clause, 
only in the main clause.

Uses of the Conditional

  1. First conditional
    1. Nature: Open condition, what is said in the condition is possible.
    2. Time: This condition refers either to present or to future time.
      e.g. If he is late, we will have to go without him.
      If my mother knows about this, we are in serious trouble.

  2. Second conditional
    1. Nature: unreal (impossible) or improbable situations.
    2. Time: present; the TENSE is past, but we are talking about the present, now.
      e.g. If I knew her name, I would tell you.
      If I were you, I would tell my father.
      Compare: If I become president, I will change the social security system. (Said by a presidential candidate)
      If I became president, I would change the social security system. (Said by a schoolboy: improbable)
      If we win this match, we are qualified for the semifinals.
      If I won a million pounds, I would stop teaching. (improbable)

  3. Third conditional
    1. Nature: unreal
    2. Time: Past (so we are talking about a situation that was not so in the past.)
      e.g. If you had warned me, I would not have told your father about that party.(But you didn’t, and I have).


1. The conditional construction does not normally use will or would in if-clauses. EXCEPTION: If will or would express willingness, as in requests, they can be used in if-clauses.

e.g. If you will come this way, the manager will see you now.
I would be grateful if you would give me a little help.
(= ± please, come this way; please, give me…)

2. For the second conditional, were replaces was:

If I were a rich man…

3. After if, we can either use “some(-one, -where…)” or “any(-one, -where…).

If I have some spare time next weekend….or : 
If I have any spare time…

4. Instead of if not, we can use unless.

e.g. I’ll be back tomorrow unless there is a plane strike.
He’ll accept the job unless the salary is too low.

5.There is a “mixed type” as well, for the present results of an unreal condition in the past:

If + Past Perfect – would + inf.
If you had warned me [then], I would not be in prison [now].



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Source: First, Second, and Third Conditional

First, Second, and Third Conditional was last modified: January 24th, 2018 by Jovan Stosic